With the Chicago Cubs looking for starting pitching, they have been linked pretty heavily with the San Diego Padres, whose whole rotation is for sale. According to Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, Starlin Castro is a target for the Padres in the discussions.
Morsosi also advanced a theory that a James Shields for Starlin Castro swap made a lot of sense.
Shields is owed $65 million from 2016 to 2019, while Castro is owed $37 million from 2016 to 2020 with a $16 million option for 2021 with a $1 million buyout. With Castro struggling and shortstop prospects Addison Russell and Javier Baez breathing down his neck the Cubs could be interested in moving him and using the money saved for a veteran, front of the rotation arm like Shields. In theory it all makes sense, but Buster Olney of ESPN quickly shot it down while I was writing this.
With how wild the trade deadline becomes, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Cubs suddenly decided they were in on Shields after seeing the price of other front of the rotation arms. For now though it appears the focus of the Cubs will be on Tyson Ross according to Rosenthal.
So now that we have all the rumors out of the way, lets focus on Castro himself. Castro is a 25 year old, three time All Star shortstop who plays above average defense and is under contract at a reasonable rate beyond his arbitration years. A player who meets that criteria is very hard to find, let alone finding one available to acquire. Despite his resume though, Castro has been mired in a season long slump and as I mentioned earlier, the Cubs have Javier Baez and Addison Russell who could become the Cubs new double play combo tomorrow if need be.
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Just how bad has Castro struggled? His wRC+, a metric used to compare the offensive production of a player relative to the league average (which is 100), is 52. Alexi Amarista, the reason the Padres are looking for an upgrade at short, has a wRC+ of 61. This year Castro has hit .233/.268/.302, one of the worst slash lines of 2015. Among qualified hitters Castro has the 23rd lowest batting average, 5th lowest OBP and the second lowest slugging percentage. He’s been just about the worst player getting regular at bats in the major leagues this year.
While all of that looks really, really bad, I can say with a pretty large degree of certainty that if the Padres acquire Castro he won’t be this bad. He has a five year track record of being a very productive hitter and that doesn’t just vanish to a 25 year old with no major injuries. That being said, if the Padres trade Tyson Ross they can’t afford to get that trade wrong. Ross isn’t a player who needs to be moved, so the return must be overwhelming to make the deal worthwhile. Starlin Castro is far from overwhelming, so I don’t see this happening unless the Cubs are suddenling interested in Shields or the Cubs shift their focus onto Andrew Cashner.
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